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If I Wanted Mindless Entertainment, I'd Go to the Movies

By Dustin Rowles | TV | September 14, 2010 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | September 14, 2010 |

“Nikita” is very nearly a good show, and as much as it would pain me to watch a program on “The CW,” I want it to be good enough to warrant continued viewership. It’s a great premise — so good, in fact, that this is the fourth incarnation of it (after the film, La Femme Nikita, a Bridget Fonda movie, and two television shows). Maggie Q (Mission Impossible) stars as a government-trained assassin who bolts from “The Division” after they put a hit out on her for falling in love (the nerve!) and murder her civilian boyfriend. Turns out, there are many more agents-in-training like Nikita: The Division plucks out criminally troubled attractive people with fuzzy memories of their misdeeds, stages their deaths, and gives them a second life as government assassins, whether they want to be or not. Nikita desires to bring down The Division, rescue the other agents, reclaim her life, and — of course — get her revenge.

To do so, she’ll be pitted against her former handler, Michael (Shane West), and lots of menacing-looking higher ups, like “The Division” shrink, Amanda (“The O.C.’s” Melinda Clarke), and the head of the division, Percy (Xander Berkley). Nikita also has a mole within The Division, Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca), someone she planted with an alluring back story to help her take down the place from the inside.

The pilot episode is a lot of flash and dazzle, and Maggie Q is fantastic in both a swimsuit and with a gun. She’s goddamn electric, and her energy feeds into the show, which has a similar vibe to the other McG produced show, “Chuck,” though it lacks the humor (but not the unintentional camp, unfortunately).

The problems with “Nikita” are salvageable — the writing is painfully trite, the pilot is exposition heavy, and Shane West (“Once and Again,” A Walk to Remember) has all the charisma of a toenail — but, unless it’s improved, it does keep “Nikita” mired in the category of guilty-pleasure, instead of being a smart and sleek spy thriller. Moreover, it seems nearly impossible to keep up the pace over the course of a longer series. The mythology is firmly established in the pilot, and it would seem that overall plot development will be painfully incremental over the course of the series, but hell, that’s nothing six seasons of “Lost” didn’t prepare us for.

Whether you decide to follow “Nikita” will probably depend on your television-viewing habits. If you’re selective and limit yourself only to the smarter, more sophisticated appointment programming, “Nikita” is unlikely to merit your attention. It’s a second-tier show, entertaining but mindless. And given the overall evolution of television and its relative superiority now over the motion picture, I prefer to get my mindless entertainment in the theater, where the commitment level isn’t as high.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.